I am the mother of a digital native. A millennial. A member of the Net generation. Whatever you call him (and I've called him a lot of things--believe me), my eleven year-old isn't the same type of learner as I was when I was his age. Whereas I'd studiously and laboriously pore over my vocabulary flashcards, recopy my class notes, and just engage in some plain old-fashioned buckle-down-lock-myself-in-my-room-pace-recite-and-study for exams, my son resists and rejects my proven approach to learning. No matter how many frustrating and fruitless attempts I've made to get him to be more like me, somehow he just doesn't see the appeal of doing things my way.
But can I blame him?
Back in the early days of my career, like any eager and young teacher, I'd create study guides and chapter outlines and test-preparation materials for my students in anticipation of upcoming exams.
It was boring. They were bored. I was bored teaching it.
I thought about ways I could spice it up--make it interesting. And one night, plopped in front of my favorite TV game show, I became inspired. That's how the next day's test review session was born: "Romeo & Juliet Jeopardy."
It was a hit. They had fun. I had fun creating it and playing it with my freshmen.
And guess what? Judging from the increased test scores that time around, it appears that most of them actually learned something. Today, there isn't a unit I teach that doesn't include some kind of game-based learning to it.
Let's face facts: we can't keep teaching and treating digital natives as if they're us. We'll lose them. No, it's not our role as teachers to necessarily always entertain our students. To be the juggling clown in the front of the classroom.
But we could meet them halfway. And on their turf.
I've had to accept the cold, hard fact that my son is a gamer. Personally, it's sometimes a hard pill for me to swallow. It means he not only plays video games, but that he'd rather game than do anything else: create his own study guides, color-code his notes, and organize them into multi-tabbed binders. But there is a valid argument for playing to learn.
I still demand that my son make flashcards for his science vocabulary, but now we make them on Quizlet and turn it into a game. We review for math tests at Math Playground. And for his most recent language arts quiz, we drilled adjectives. Whatever the subject, we Google it for online games. The digital native and the digital immigrant have found some common ground when it comes to learning.
I'm game if he is.
image via Knowledge Direct